WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Teaching is Tara’s gift
TARA THOMAS HAS a special gift: She loves to teach.
While many may say there are lots of teachers, Thomas has been able to successfully work, not only with children in mainstream schools, but also those with special needs. And she is passionate about what can be described as her “calling”.
The 27-year-old private tutor who offers lessons from her Kendall Hill, Christ Church home, said she just had a knack for teaching and started out giving lessons to two of her relatives. That led to her working at a private school for a period of time and now, for the last seven years giving one-on-one lessons.
Thomas has worked with autistic children, some non-verbal, and has 40 children aged six to 16 in her Golden Stars Learning Academy.
The former Christ church Foundation student has a diversed portfolio which ranges from Infants to Class 4, and includes remedial reading and English for students at the secondary school level.
“I get a very good response from the parents who continue to be supportive. I get that reception because they see results not only in the academics, but also in their child’s all-round behaviour,” she said.
Thomas, who has a range of qualifications and is presently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Education at the Erdiston Teachers Training College, said she has worked with children who are behind in their reading level, as well as students who were preparing for the Common Entrance Examination but were reading at the Infants B level.
“In a case like that, I not only have to deal with pushing academics but also have to look at their self-esteem because they are going to be embarrassed that aunty Tara is making them read an Infants B book,” she said.
Over the summer holiday Thomas held a six-week educational camp aimed at giving children a head start on the school syllabus they will be taught next school year.
“The students are taught a level above the class they are in at school, if you are going into Infants B, I will do an evaluation to see what your capabilities are and will teach a class ahead so when you return to school in September you would already have an understanding of most of the concepts,” she said.
What she does differently that gets the results, she said, is that she makes her students comfortable.
“Once a child is in its comfort zone, you can teach it anything. I work on building their self-esteem and their confidence so they become excited to do the work.
“We have a good student-teacher relationship where they call me aunty Tara, not Ms Thomas, and I work to cultivate a relationship with all my children. it starts with making them feel comfortable so they can ask any question and also ask for help,” she said.
Though Thomas was never formally trained to work with autistic children, she noted that while working at a private school in 2009 that caters to autistic children one of her mentors saw her potential to deal with them.
Thomas said it feels good to see her students improve and she is still at times in awe that parents put so much trust in her. “For me, that is my reward; to see children change ever how slight. I had one special needs student who would have attended a number of prominent special needs schools here in Barbados and they did up all the reports that he could do this and that, and something as simple as tying a shoelace he could not get done. Within two weeks of working with him, he was able to master that. For me it felt as though I taught him how to long divide,” Thomas said.
Speaking of her track record, Thomas said the reports speak for themselves. “I record their entry grades and we compare the grades as they progress each year.”
She said she sees potential in all children, and there is always a way to unlock that potential. “I do not regard any child as a bad child; I believe that if a child is rude or disruptive there is a reason for it. Sometimes it is a case where they are not comfortable in the classroom setting, it may be the teacher’s tone of voice that would scare a timid child from asking a question,” she said.
For Thomas, who started with two students and one small table at her home, she said she is now widely recommended and can help more children by offering her classes.
“Most of them are classed as being rude and disruptive and some teachers do not take that second chance to look into it to see why they behave that way.
“I did not grow up with a gold spoon, and I see it as a way of giving back to the children whom we refer to as coming up in not ideal circumstances,” she said.